If Dilbar Negi followed his dreams, he would possibly have gladly laid his life in the service of the nation. But the Jihadi rioters snuffed his life away in the most brutal manner difficult even to comprehend.
- Prof. Vijita Aggarwal
As my car slowly moved on the narrow winding roads of Rokad village in Thalisain Uttarakhand, my thoughts were racing. How will I face them? The family of the Delhi riot victim Dilbar Negi. The car stopped much before the village and the terraced green fields could do little to arrest my thoughts as we walked through the narrow track between the fields. As we walked, we became more and more aware of the subsistence agriculture and the meagre means. Was this the very track where Dilbar would have walked 6 months back never to return back. I could feel my eyes burning with tears as the image of the young boy crossed my mind. He was all over the news. An obscure Uttarakand boy who was not known even in his locality, was household name all over India. In news, in tweet, on facebook, he was all over but for reasons so unfortunate.
His family was very poor, but Dilbar always wanted to make it big. His life’s dream was to be in Indian armed forces and to serve the nation. He had moved to Delhi so that he could earn some money support his family and prepare for his entry in the army. When he came to Delhi he did not know anyone with some local connections he was able to get a job in Anil Sweet House a small shop in Shiv Vihar. He was slowly learning the ways of the city and making new friends.
Shyam Singh, a resident of village Ida in Uttarakhand, one of his close friend working in the same sweet shop recalls, Dilbar was always smiling. Like many young from the hills, he dreamt of serving the nation in its defence forces. He always used to say “one day I will be in army”. He also liked to visit the National War Memorial where he liked to watch the scenes of great battles of Indian army emblazoned in bronze nurturing some deep reservoirs of ambition and thoughts of service to the nation.
It was the night of 23rd February when Dilbar, Shyam Singh and two other boys were in the shop. Since the morning there was news of riots and the air was heavy with communal tension. These boys were contemplating whether to shift to some safe place. Suddenly they heard loud banging on the door they knew that the door will soon be broken and so all of them tried to escape out of the shop. Before they could run, the door broke open and the rioters surged in. Shyam Singh says, I ran for my life and when I looked over my shoulder, I could see only two of my other friends. I consoled myself that Dilbar would have taken some other path and would have escaped. But he was so wrong. Dilbar could not escape.
The rioters vandalized, looted and then set the shop ablaze. There was no news of Dilbar still. It was 25 February night when the riots stopped. On February 26, the shop owner Anil Pal went to the shop to assess the damage. The whole shop was burnt as he made his way inside the shop with the police. He found the body of the deceased Dilbar near the stairway on the second floor. Anil Pal says he was shocked. Initially he could not comprehend that this was the boy who worked with him. Anil ji says to this date he has not been able to sleep well at night. The brutality of the murder sends chills down his spine. Dilbar’s hands and legs were hacked with sword and then he was thrown in fire alive. So gruesome, so barbaric, so brutal. Dilbar’s charred body was kept in Guru Teg Bahadur Hospital and then taken to his home place, where I was standing now.
Hearing us come, Dilbar’s family came out his mother who was frail sat down. She looked at me and in her eyes I could see the agony of losing a son. While these villages have seen the bodies of their young returning sometimes from the plains in unfortunate circumstances, they have been draped in tricolour, given the long held tradition of the hill people to serve in the army. The tears are still there in those circumstances, but they are also mixed with an underlying pride of lives not wasted but sacrificed in the service of the nation. How does one deal with tears that well up for reasons unknown, motivations of perpetrators dubious and manner gruesome. All that one is left with is a feeling of wanton loss and miserableness.
She started to cry and I saw she was clutching on to a handkerchief which a villager told, came in the belongings of Dilbar bought back from Delhi. As if trying to console her child in pain, She held on to it her lips trembling and mumbling, ‘he never meant any wrong to anyone’. How do I tell the poor peasant women the jihadi rioter’s ideology of ‘KAFIR’ which had smouldered the light before it could light up the world.
In another time and place, if Dilbar could follow his dreams, he would possibly (if situation arose), have gladly laid his life in the service of the nation. It would have been a sacrifice of which nation would have been proud and the mother consolable even in her loss. The life of a strapping youth is an asset of the community. A nation needs to build environment where the young can chase their dreams, contribute to themselves, their communities and their nation. What is built when young lives such as these are lost in this manner is a question that begs answer in the echoing emptiness that is left after the riots.
(The author teaches at GGSIPU,Delhi)